Challenge of ‘God’ in Pledge of Allegiance Not Over Yet

FFRF Names Newdow “Freethought Hero”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation congratulated First Amendment plaintiff Michael Newdow for raising national consciousness about the secular origin of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Foundation emphasized that today’s dismissal of his lawsuit by the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the insertion of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance was on a technicality only. The court decision in no way “blessed” the religious pledge, and leaves the path clear for future litigation.

The Foundation predicts that the courts have not heard the last from the physician/father/attorney and his quest to return the Pledge of Allegiance to a secular status.

“Newdow is absolutely correct in arguing that the Constitution requires neutrality in the public schools. The case law is on his side,” noted Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Foundation.

The justices voted 8-0 that Newdow does not (yet) have sufficient custody of his daughter to have standing to sue. (Justice Scalia recused himself upon request of Newdow for prejudging the case.) Newdow is in the midst of a complicated custody battle with his daughter’s mother.

The Foundation amicus brief on behalf of Newdow had argued in part that any parent paying taxes to support a local public school ought to have sufficient standing to challenge First Amendment violations in those schools.

The decision today overturns what the Foundation termed the “brilliant” decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the recitation of the religious Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional.

Circuit Judge Alfred T. Goodwin wrote the June 26, 2002, decision for the Ninth Circuit, which was upheld by an en banc panel the following year, noting:

“A profession that we are a nation ‘under God’ is identical to a profession that we are a nation ‘under Jesus,’ a nation ‘under Vishnu,’ a nation ‘under Zeus,’ or a nation ‘under no God.’ “

The decision set off a firestorm of controversy, with many commentators surprisingly siding with Newdow.

Newdow will be named “Freethought Hero” at the Twenty-Seventh Annual National Convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation meeting in Madison, Wis., on the weekend of Oct. 29-31, 2004.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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